I’m not sure if it is what they intended, but the animated film “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” can easily be considered a “must-see” summer film for children under the age of 5.
Other filmgoers will, in general, likely find the 1.5hr film to be filled with flat, obvious puns and jokes, bland voice acting, and plot developments that go about as deep as you’d expect from a kids/family film about furry animals trying to find food and a home.
The rag-tag team of animals, led by a slightly surly at best, cocksure squirrel named Surly (Will Arnett), are in danger of being homeless after the loss of their current home, a nut shop. In their efforts to find a new hogar dulce hogar at the nearby city park, they come into conflict with the cities evil, self-serving, ham-it-up-for-the-camera mayor (Bobby Moynihan), complete with Texan accent.
The mayor plans to build a shoddy amusement park over the park for the sake of adding to his already significant coffers, while the animals must build their resolve enough to be led by Surly to stand up for themselves and stop him.
At one or two points, the plot attempts to introduce the concept of getting in touch with ones “animal instincts,” but this is quickly dismissed in lieu of time for inserting bland and needless buffoonery.
Additionally, the romantic sub-plots in the film – one between Surly and Andie (Katherine Heigl), the moralizing, voice of reason squirrel just waiting to learn to loosen up, and Frank (Bobby Cannavale), a dimwitted French bulldog who falls in love with the precocious pug Precious (Maya Rudolph) – felt like they could have aided in fleshing out the story and adding a bit of thematic depth, but were unfortunately wasted and served only very minor importance.
Mr. Feng (Jackie Chan), the leader of a Chinatown mice gang, also felt like a potential highlight, but ended up being wasted due to limited screen time.
The animation, generally something that even the worst reviewed, major studio animated film releases seem to be doing at least well with (e.g., “The Boss Baby,” “Smurfs: The Lost Village”) also felt overly simplistic and as though the characters were sometimes lacking in proper CGI physics. This despite the over-the-top, slapstick style.
Additionally, “The Nut Job 2” could have used a giant pacing shift into a slightly lower gear to slow things down, and one talented joke writer (instead of the 5 lesser so it had) to provide fresh, and more and less nutty (less flat, fewer puns, pun intended) humor.
Director Cal Brunker (previously a storyboard artist for “Despicable Me”), does not bring anything near the enjoyment, sincerity, or the warmth of that film to this effort, and the score by Heitor Pereira, felt bland, repetitious, and unsupportive to the tone and pacing of the film.
This film could maybe not have been beloved, but potentially have been a fun, silly romp to take the kids to and zone out during. Unfortunately, it ended up feeling much more like the feature film version of the romantic regurgitation technique employed by the dogs towards each other.
“The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” – D+/68
Co-Host of The Reel Review
Director: Cal Brunker
Stars: Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph, Jackie Chan, Isabela Moner
Running Time: 1h 31m
Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy,Family
Correction: August 20, 2017
Composer for this film has been updated to Heitor Pereira. Ella Louise Allaire was originally listed in error.